A week ago, when Louisiana’s 83-year-old ex-con ex-Governor made his latest debut on the public scene by appearing at a Historical Preservation Society dinner, New Orleans Gambit’s Clancy DuBos penned a terrific piece noting that he’s not amusing anymore.
DuBos notes that this weekend Edwin Edwards is throwing himself a birthday bash at the Hotel Monteleone in New Orleans, with invitees ponying up the not-insignificant sum of $250 a plate for the privilege of seeing him and his new 32-year old bride, who he’ll be marrying on Friday. He says when he was a young reporter he was captivated by Edwards, but he’s not anymore – largely because the world has changed, while Edwards has not.
Some things never change.
But some things do, including society. I thought about that when I read The Silver Zipper’s comment about his 32-year-old girlfriend (and future bride) and the fact that he will soon turn 84. “You’re only as old as the woman you feel,” he quipped.
Three decades ago, I would have laughed, along with many others. This time most of us winced. Perhaps EWE saw this as a harmless update to his immortal 1983 utterance, when he said of his imminent victory over then-Gov. Dave Treen, “The only way I can lose this election is if I’m caught in bed with either a dead girl or a live boy.” That one was a hoot … back then.
But that was 28 years ago. Back then, Michael Jackson and Culture Club topped the charts, and Rubik’s Cube was the top-selling toy, along with Cabbage Patch dolls and boom boxes.
A lot has changed since then. We now get our music from satellites and the Internet, not from phonographs, tapes or even CDs. Today, our phones are also cameras — and computers.
Louisiana politics changed dramatically as well, even in the nine years since Edwards walked into prison. Our state now has a governor who is not white, and New Orleans has a mayor who is not black. Instead of “Republican” and “Democrat,” a lot of folks use “red” and “blue” to describe states’ political leanings. Heck, even those color references are upside-down. Red used to mean liberal, as in Red China, and blue used to mean wealthy and snobbish, as in blue-blooded. Now red means Republican and blue means Democratic.
Louisiana was a blue state in 2002. Now we’re decidedly red. The year EWE entered the Big House, seven of Louisiana’s nine statewide elected officials were Democrats. A year later all but one of them were Dems. Today, all but one are Republicans — and the Legislature has a GOP majority in both chambers.
As Edwards scans the audience at his party next Saturday, he might notice that there aren’t many folks there under the age of 50. Truth is, less than half the voting age population in Louisiana today ever voted for him. It’s been 20 years — an entire generation — since EWE last won an election.
The paunchy, aging EWE is not what he used to be. Neither is Louisiana. He’ll always be quotable, but he has outlived his political relevance — except, perhaps, as a cautionary tale.
DuBos’ perspective obviously hasn’t descended on some of the state’s other media types. Take Michelle Milhollon, the Baton Rouge Advocate’s Capitol correspondent, for example. Milhollon is a relatively reliable Democrat, so a friendly treatment for Edwards is hardly a surprise coming from her.
But ask yourself if there’s any balance to this snippet…
With the wedding, Scott will become the former governor’s third wife.
The marriage marks another chapter in a colorful life highlighted by four terms as governor and tainted by a federal prison sentence.
Edwards’ first wife was his high school sweetheart, Elaine Schwartzenberg, whom he met in Marksville and took to movie dates in a Model A Ford. They married in 1949. The union produced four children but ended in 1989, shortly after Edwards’ third term as governor.
More than 40 years after his first wedding, Edwards met his next wife, Candy Picou, at a downtown lunch spot in Baton Rouge. He was in his 60s and was about to make a successful bid for a fourth term in the Governor’s Mansion. She was a 26-year-old secretary.
Edwards courted Picou with poetry.
“You know, I heard all the same things everybody else heard, ‘crook,’ ‘womanizer.’ ” Picou recalled in Edwards’ biography. “He was wonderful!”
Edwards and Picou married at the Governor’s Mansion in 1994. The marriage unraveled while Edwards’ was serving a 10-year prison sentence on racketeering charges involving riverboat casino licenses.
Newly divorced and still behind bars, Edwards worked on his biography with writer Leo Honeycutt.
Scott read the book, wrote to Edwards in prison and began visiting him, she said.
Upon Edwards’ release in January, Scott became a part of his post-prison life. They live in Gonzales with her two sons.
Scott often remarks about their life together on Facebook, complimenting Edwards’ cooking and commenting on the enjoyment she derives from taking care of him.
The day after tying the knot, Edwards will celebrate his 84th birthday at the Hotel Monteleone in New Orleans. Long-time friends and colleagues are supposed to pay tribute to him during the party.
Edwards’ first public comments since completing the terms of his home incarceration earlier this summer were supposed to be made Saturday at a news conference before his birthday party. However, Edwards and Scott began making the rounds well ahead of this weekend.
They are attending social events, promoting his biography across the state and contemplating a reality television show.
So in other words, they called this guy the Silver Zipper for no reason? The fact that he cheated on his wives on practically a daily basis before he got too old to perform at that level doesn’t add anything to the story?
Edwards was the nation’s poster boy for political corruption for better than two decades, and Milhollon calls him “colorful.” Charming.
It’s media coverage like that which gives the Zipper the idea that he’s somehow a hero in this state. Remember this quote from last month?
‘I really feel like I came out of prison more popular than I went in,’ he said.
‘I think in some part because people realise that an injustice occurred and that I handled it like a man. I took it. I survived. I said that I would walk out, and I did.’
Injustice, indeed. Selling casino licenses in return for bribes couldn’t possibly result in legal consequences. Why, this is Louisiana – nothing wrong with doing that at all. And since he handled his persecution like a man he can stand tall!
Every time I write something about this guy, I get deluged with people telling me I should leave the old man alone. That he’s done as a political figure, that he paid his debt to society, that we should remember the good he did as well as the bad. And on, and on.
You know what? Maybe I’d do that, except Saturday this guy is going to charge $250 a plate for a dinner at which he’s going to give what is without question going to be a political speech. He’s out there trying to sell books and he’s trying to get a gig on reality TV. And he’s going to be on the trail this fall trying to get Democrats elected; in fact, his crony and “employer” Buddy Leach had him calling people this spring in an attempt to recruit candidates for statewide races.
Edwards isn’t going away. He’s trying to cash in on his celebrity and corruption. And I’m supposed to just shut up and not say anything?
It’s long past time that Louisiana’s media call this guy for what he is – a disgrace. Edwards disgraced Louisiana as governor, from start to finish. He ran a bloated, corrupt and dysfunctional state government, and not once but twice he failed so miserably that the people of the state ran him out of the governor’s mansion – in 1987, when they opted for a little-known and slightly eccentric Shreveport congressman named Buddy Roemer over Edwards in a five-way race that the governor wouldn’t even contest in a runoff, and in 1995 when Edwards had so completely disgraced the office that he didn’t even bother to try to run again. Turned out that he had bigger fish to fry; like trying unsuccessfully to stay out of jail.
Edwards’ legacy as governor is perhaps the worst state constitution in the country, a bad tax system which prevented economic growth and exported jobs by the thousands to Texas, a busted political culture which ultimately revamped itself after the state’s voters turned their backs on the political party which still idolizes him to this day and a sorry reputation for political malfeasance which has only recovered thanks to a spate of scandals in places like New Jersey, New York and Illinois which pushed us off the front page.
For that legacy we’re supposed to thank this man for being “colorful?”
Ask yourself this – how long do you think this guy would last if he was a Republican? And don’t come to me with David Vitter, either – you can’t even say Vitter’s name without people throwing out “hookers” and whatever else. The same people who excused two whole decades of Edwards’ diddling every gold-digger and camp follower in Louisiana while running a bribery/extortion machine disguised as a state economy ran an entire campaign against Vitter last year on hookers. Vitter’s name is tainted by a 10-year old episode of moral turpitude, and probably rightly so, but to equate the two is an exercise in dishonesty.
DuBos has it right. Edwards isn’t funny anymore, he doesn’t entertain and he’s old in more than just age.
And I’m no prude, but this “you’re only as old as the woman you feel” business isn’t amusing; it’s tawdry. It’s trashy. It’s classless. It’s also a pretty good indication that Edwards doesn’t respect his new chippy any more than the women who came before her. He might stay faithful, but that’s because he’s going to be 84 years old this weekend and he’s probably going to need help from the pharmaceutical industry to do anything in that respect.
And it’s none of my business to even mention that – but I regard it as a pretty safe bet that the schlubs who fork over $250 on Saturday to hear this guy give a speech will get regaled with some sort of statement about it. Most married guys would rightly recognize that saying stuff like that in public with the wife in attendance is a great way to spend the night on the couch, if not at one of those extended-stay hotels, but when Edwards does it we’re supposed to laugh politely and call him “colorful.”
It’s not colorful. It’s grotesque. So is he. And it’s past time Edwards got rejected not just for what he was, but for what he is now – a pathetic, grasping, crooked old pol who offers nothing but whitewash and tired echoes of a history most of us would rather forget.
Go away, Eddie. We want to ignore you; let us do that in peace.